Covid-19: As fourth wave spreads, Nairobians let down their guard

Covid-19: As fourth wave spreads, Nairobians let down their guard

It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m off to Kenyatta National Hospital.

Even though NMG provides transport for journalists covering news, I decided to use public transport. It was part of my story.

From the bus stop, it was evident that Kenyans in Nairobi have let their guard down in the fight against Covid-19, even as the Delta variant of the virus sweeps parts of the country.

Some public service vehicles are not adhering to the 60 percent directive from the Ministry of health.

In one of the buses that operate between KNH and the city centre, some passengers refused to make room for more passengers.
But they were pushed by touts to create space for other passengers.

The bus conductor insisted there was more space, and in a few minutes, the vehicle was full.

The marketplace at the bus station was a beehive of activity, with no regard to social distancing.

Kenya is among 17 African countries that have reported the Delta variant of Covid-19 that drove India’s deadly surge.

Some 26 African countries saw their confirmed Covid-19 case numbers jump by about 50 percent or more in June than in May.

The Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) warned on July 1 that the country was likely to experience the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections from mid-July, fuelled by the Delta variant that is already dominant in the western region.

The Delta variant, also known as B.1.617, was first detected last year in India, where it has been ravaging populations, and has since spread to dozens of other countries.

In Africa, experts fear the variant may bring disastrous consequences, attributed to the surge in Covid-19 numbers in some African countries.

Fast-moving third wave

“Africa has just marked the continent’s most dire pandemic week ever. But the worst is yet to come as the fast-moving third wave continues to gain speed and new ground,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Africa.

“The end to this precipitous rise is still weeks away. Cases are doubling now every 18 days, compared with every 21 days only a week ago. We can still break the chain of transmission by testing, isolating contacts and cases and following key public health measures.”

When Covid-19 first hit the world in early 2020, WHO issued public health interventions and non-pharmaceutical measures to curb the spread of the virus.

The measures included travel restrictions, borders closures, quarantining of travellers arriving from affected countries, city lockdowns, restricting mass gatherings, isolating and quarantining confirmed cases and close contacts, social distancing, compulsory mask-wearing, contact tracing and testing, school closures and use of personal protective equipment among health workers.

But as infection numbers decreased, countries eased the measures.

In Kenya, political gatherings remain banned; places of worship are to keep to one-third capacity (but they were closed in Nyanza and Western following a spike in infections in those regions), funerals and weddings should keep to 100 attendees and hospitals should limit the number of visitors to one per patient.

Also, Kenyans should observe social distancing, wear a mask in public places, wash hands or use sanitiser.

There should be temperature screening in all public places, and all public vehicles should carry 60 percent of their original capacity.

However, a spot check by the Nation paints a different picture, as the country faces a fourth wave: Kenyans have let their guard down.

As of Monday, July 12, the virus had claimed 3,723 lives while another 5,443 people were receiving treatment in hospital and in home-based care.

No sanitiser

At the General Post Office (GPO), the thermal screening machine at the entrance was not working, there was no sanitiser, and some visitors walked past the handwashing point.

In the Huduma Centre section at GPO, the guards only checked the temperature and directed people to the handwashing point.

But there was no social distancing for the many people who lined up to get served.

Inside the KNH Accident and Emergency section, there was no social distancing, no temperature screening, and just like at GPO, the handwashing point was ignored by many.

Inside the hospital, the story was the same, as patients did not observe social distance.

The usual crowding in the largest referral hospital in east and central Africa still continues.

Political gatherings have also been witnessed recently, mainly in Kiambaa, where a hotly contested by-election is scheduled on July 15.

A few restaurants in Nairobi’s city centre adhered to all the requirements set by the Ministry of Health.

While most Nairobians are wearing face masks, it is mainly to ward off menacing security officers who have used the requirement as a cash cow.

Using a face mask should be accompanied by other public health measures, said Amref-Africa chief executive Dr Githinji Gitahi.

Dr Gitahi, who was recently appointed to the African Covid-19 Response Commission, also reminded Kenyans that they are still vulnerable to the virus as only two percent of the country’s adult population have been fully vaccinated.

“We are predicting the fourth wave of the virus by the end of July or August, and it’s likely to be driven by the Delta variant, which has been highly infectious,” he said.

“The variant is affecting young people as well, and therefore there is a need for people to remember that there is still danger that lurks in our lives. We should take all the necessary measures and not drop our guard.”